After a close battle with the Region Nine (Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo) representative, Junisha Johnny, Sherryanna Balkaran, the Patamona beauty who hails from the peaks of the North Pakaraimas in Region Eight (Potaro-Siparuni) was announced the winner of the biannual Miss Indigenous Heritage 2017 in the wee hours of Sunday, sending her supporters in the crowd into an uproar.
Balkaran has undoubtedly done her Region proud, as the Paramakatoi community secured the coveted title for the third time since the inaugural hosting in 2005.
The event, which boasted an evening of beauty, culture and intelligence, saw the timely arrival of scores of patrons at the National Cultural Centre and kicked off with an introduction segment, succeeded by the talent, evening wear, traditional wear and final question segments.
Despite having displayed confidence during the early sections of the pageant, some of the delegates faltered under pressure when they were grilled on their respective platforms. The better five made it into the final – Johnny; Balkaran; the Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne) delegate, Roberta Alpin; the Region 10 (Upper Demerara-Berbice) delegate, Shanna Boyle; and the Region Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni) delegate, Dolly Chambers.
Copping the Miss Congeniality title was Anastacia Harripersaud of Region Five (Mahaica-Berbice) with a cash prize of $30,000 while the best talent award went to Region Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam)’s Nareefa Allicock.
Balkaran also copped the best gown and traditional wear prizes. The second runner-up was Chambers, third runner-up Boyle and the fourth runner-up, Alpin.
Despite having limited support from the audience, the now reigning queen confidently highlighted the common misconceptions about Guyana’s first people, who are falsely dubbed “stupid and uncivilised” as she urged Indigenous persons to pursue advanced education to discredit the stereotype – while advocating for the preservation and maintenance of ancestral traditions.
The other delegates responded favourably, but Balkaran’s fluent and thorough response was just enough to convince the judges beyond reasonable doubt to make the pronouncement in her favour.
She succeeds 2015 queen Sherica Ambrose of Region Nine; Analisa Andrews (Region Five) in 2013; Naiomi Samuels (Region Three) in 2011; Nandanie Jerry (Region Seven) in 2009; Odessa Paul (Region Eight) in 2007; and Sondra Cheong (Region Eight) in 2005.